Light washes of colour are applied over the plate sketch to form the outline, shape,
texture and shadows of the plate
I thought I'd share how I created some of my recent plate illustrations for Real Living magazine and the process I went through with the painting. For these illustrations I worked on Arches Medium textured 300gsm watercolour paper.
The first stage I went through was stretching the watercolour paper, the process of stretching paper prior to painting means the paper will always remain perfectly flat, and won't buckle when the wet paint is applied. I don't always stretch my paper before painting - especially when using the 300gsm weight paper, but as the illustrations where to be photographed I wanted to ensure the artworks remained perfectly flat.
Using a B pencil I sketched the outline of the plates, including any pattern and detailed areas. I try to do this quite lightly, so I can rub out any pencil marks once the artwork is finished. Sometimes I work 'blind' and paint directly onto the paper without any pencil sketches first, but for these illustrations I chose to sketch the plates first to ensure I could capture the plates as accurately as possible.
Once the outlines were sketched, I started to apply light washes of watercolour paint to create the plate outline, as well as shadows to give a sense of 3 dimension. Once the basic shape of the plate was finished, I added more layers of colour to acheive some of the basic detail and pattern of the plate.
The layers continued to be built up, finishing with the darkest areas and fine detail. With watercolour you always paint light to dark - so lightest areas first and building up to the darker sections last. Any white areas are created by letting the white paper show through, rather than using a white paint colour.
It depends how detailed you want the artwork as to how many layers of paint are added or how much detail to include. I like my illustrations to have a sense of realism and detail to them - but without being too perfect or 'finished'.